WW2 Wickford's Army Camp

In the many years I have been researching old Wickford, or our Bygone Years, I’ve heard stories of a POW Camp in lower Nevendon Road, which housed Italian prisoners. Never confirmed, and I can’t find any wartime POW records that can confirm it. But an Army Camp was erected on land adjacent to what is now Wickford Fire Station, on the corner of Hyde Way. During the build up to D-Day I had it confirmed that the camp was occupied by the army and on Saturday evenings Wickford’s ‘ladies of the night’ used to be waiting outside for the soldiers to help relieve them of their pay! What is certain is that after the war the camp stood abandoned and the homeless then called ‘Squatters’ moved in for accommodation. As can be seen by these three photographs, the family that presented me with these pictures and my own sister-in-law and her family were former occupants¬† of Wickford’s ‘Great Escape’. As can probably be seen from the pictures, life couldn’t have been easy for people who had been bombed out and lost everything and who had nowhere else to go. At one point the Council cut their electricity supply in an attempt to move the residents on. These people, many who had come down from London, actually paid rent, but were called squatters, two families to a barrack I’m told. Most of these poor people were re-housed in 1948 on the Highcliff Estate, Southend Road.

The very last of the huts became Wickford’s original clinic and as a baby I had all my jabs there. This was taken looking at myself in my mother’s arms, 1953/4, my mum is situated just to the right of the door, front row looking at the baby, which is yours truly.
The Clinic’s staff are extreme right of the picture in their starched white overall coats, the actual man who administered the jabs stands beneath the Essex Shield.
I hope this helps with those searching for information on the Nevendon Road Army Camp. I still have another gentleman to interview on his memories spent there as a former Squatter, when I have finished the interview I’ll publish the gentleman’s comments on the archive.

 

Editor’s comment.¬† There are quite a few comments about the ‘POW camp’ attached to the article, “Runwell Remembered – the war years.”

Trevor Williams
Trevor Williams
Trevor Williams

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  • My mum and dad were squatting in the camp and I was born there in November 1947. I of course know very little about the camp but would love to find out some more.

    By Phillip Sheppard (30/03/2018)
  • I was born in the Army huts in Wickford Nevedon Road

    By Phillip Sheppard (29/03/2018)
  • I was actually born in the camp in November 1947 and would love to see any photos or hear any stories about living there.

    My parents moved to the Highcliffe Estate on 18th february 1948 and there was deep snow on the ground.

    By lorraine longman (13/10/2014)
  • I remember my parents telling me about the Italian POW’s in Nevendon Road. They were in the land in front of the brickfields. I can confirm that one hut was left up after the war which was on the left hand side of what is now Hyde Way, although I think there may have been a road name change in the 1960’s. ‘Hyde Way’ had a buckled and cracked concrete road, possibly put down by the military, and was in a very poor condition in the 1950’s. There were a few houses on the left-hand side of the road and I don’t recall any real footpaths.

    The nissen hut that was left was used as a clinic and I had two teeth extracted there. In those days they did not believe in filling teeth! If my memory is correct the clinic closed in the late 1950’s / early 1960’s and was demolished for housing.

    What I recall from my parents was that the Italian POW’s went out on local work parties, I think mainly farm work. They had contact with local people and were regarded as nice polite people. They seemed to have no desire to return to war and the military had a light touch in preventing escapes. I recall being told that none were interested in trying to escape.

    A further recollection is that only one British soldier with a rifle went out with each work party, just token security of the POW’s! I seem to recall also that some settled in Wickford after the war as they had formed relationships with local ‘girls’. Maybe others can add to this and confirm my memory of the stories my parents told me.

    By John Fuller (05/04/2014)

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